Eric Aryeh Mahr 1955-2010

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At first it seemed like a mistake. An email from Joe Rubinstein asking if it was true that Eric Mahr had passed away, and if so, how. I couldn’t understand how such a thing is possible but looked around and found an obituary in the Buffalo News, yet still couldn’t see the connection. It’s not so uncommon a name, after all. I looked at Eric’s website, Mahrwood Press, and saw no indication. Emailed back to Joe that it must be someone else. Keep on checking, he said. I then visited Targum Press, where Eric was CEO. The front page obituary slammed into me like a ten ton truck with a payload of shock and sorrow.

No other news to be found on the web.  Maybe Clifford Meth knows, I thought, but Clifford’s shock was equal to mine. Maybe Sofia.  No.  Hearing the news wasn’t the easiest way for her to start her day either.  Eric’s gone and no one knows.

Stupid. How could I forget his Facebook page. Don’t do Facebook that much anymore, but there was the entire story on Eric’s profile. Countless condolences for Jody and the kids. An audio file of eulogies from the funeral that just took place on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.  Eric’s older brother, Sanford, who couldn’t make the trip from the U.S. due to health restrictions, tells the story in a moving written eulogy recited by a friend at the funeral.

Eric and Jody flew to Buffalo NY last week to attend the funeral of Jody’s father… and another one of Eric’s uncle. Eric was very close to both. Way too much sorrow and grief for one family, one man, to suffer at once.  One funeral after the other.  But Eric was almost done.  Only one more eulogy for his uncle left to give.  His heart, ripped into shreds, pressed on with love, grief, memories and praise.  At the grave.  Pressed on so hard that it couldn’t press on anymore.  That’s when Eric collapsed.  Giving the eulogy at his uncle’s grave.  His heart.  His soul.  Collapsed at the grave.

Almost done. Way too much sorrow.

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It was a cheerful spring of 1994 when we first met. Eric called from Jerusalem asking if I was who he thought. Said he was a long time fan of my comics work, ardent comics aficionado and acquaintance of Neal Adams and his family in New York. We’d spend the next few years riding the bridge between the two distant worlds we both shared. The two worlds of comic books and Jewish heritage. Not an easy bridge to play on at all. Two worlds that don’t seem to share much in common, though we both knew how much in common they really shared.  So much so that we could hardly imagine a Jewish heritage without comic books or comics books without Jews.  Like me, Eric was raising a young family with heart stretched across the long divide between past and present loves and lives. Refusing to let go of either. Searching for ways to keep both worlds connected. Here in Israel.  Living only 20 minutes apart on the West Bank of our Jewish heritage… and our comics books.

Eric acclimated to Israeli life and culture quickly. Studied technical writing and secured a position with technology giant Comverse, and soon rose to position of marketing director of overseas projects. Though often on the road, he never forgot the neighborhood. Always thought of his friends. Several freelance design and animation commissions from Comverse that he directed my way were of the most lucrative and creative jobs I did in Israel during the 1990′s.  But that wasn’t enough for Eric. He wanted to work in comics and was intent on bridging the two worlds. By the turn of the millennium he found a way and established Mahrwood Press, beginning an outstanding line of comics books for the Jewish world. Comic books rich with thousands of years of the history and heritage of his ancestors .

During a visit to Israel, Joe Rubinstein talked about Eric approaching him to help illustrate stories for Mahrwood. Joe Kubert was already on board with a project. Eric was publishing one book after the other. It’s enough to simply peruse Mahrwood’s front page to see the rich array of books he produced, almost as a one man operation. He was publisher, editor, writer, coordinator, letterer and anything else that needed to be done to produce the books. It was the only way to raise such an operation from the ground up.

Though I contributed sporadically to Eric’s venture, my former partner Sofia Fedorov-Polonsky became a regular artist and colorist for Mahrwood press. Her Moscow art training and exquisite sensibilities went on to help define the brand name of books he produced.  In 2006, he conceived a project to help Israeli children displaced by the Second Lebanon War. Balm in Gilead featured some of the comic book industry giants, pitching in to help offset criticism against Israel and the financial setbacks the war caused its northern citizens.  Edited by Clifford Meth, it featured contributions by Neal Adams, Jon Bogdanove, Dave Cockrum, Jack Dann, Jeffrey Jones, Joe Kubert, Stan Lee, Robert Silverberg, William Tenn, Marv Wolfman, Michael W. Kaluta, myself and many more.  It was the landmark project that showed how Eric’s love and devotion for the two worlds he was ardently dedicated to, had fulfilled the ambitions he dreamed of  a decade before. Eric’s persistence and perseverance became a shining light in a world often governed by feelings of helplessness and futility.

In recent years, Eric supplemented his commitment to Mahrwood Press by also taking on the position of CEO of Targum Press book publishers, elevating the production quality and output of both enterprises simultaneously.

Eric Mahr’s unique contribution to the global comic book industry was only one side of a man driven by his convictions and commitments to his family, his people and his chosen profession. The other side, evident in the eulogies at his funeral, and well known to Sofia and I who were privileged to work with him, was the more indication of the special soul residing in him. A man with a heart of gold as big as his ambition. A giver at every turn. A father and husband cherished by family, friends, acquaintances and colleagues. There was not a time that Sofia and I met with Eric, that we didn’t talk on and on about the uplifting experience he left us with. About that soft-hearted man with a zest for life and a vision for tomorrow, to match the expanse of the worlds he toiled to bridge together and enhance.

The comics have lost a unique lover and contributer to its legacy.  The Jewish people have lost a visionary who’s left an indelible mark on its culture.

Our deepest condolences to Jody, the children Benjamin and his wife Shifra Hanna, Chava Sara and her fiance Moshe Yehuda Saposh, Raphael Moshe and Yosef Shmuel Alezer, grandchildren Moshe Yehosua and Sora Brucha, brother Sanford and sister Marilyn. May you be comforted from above with the peace of Jerusalem and Zion.

Michael Netzer and Sofia Fedorov-Polonsky
Ofra, Jerusalem, 2010.

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Family, friends and comics professionals remember Eric

  • Eulogies at the funeral – audio file.
  • Sanford Mahr‘s eulogy of his brother Eric in text format, telling of Eric’s childhood, their growing together and Eric’s last moments in his arms.
  • Clifford Meth‘s moving tribute to Eric at his blog.
  • Tom Spurgeon reports on Eric’s departure at The Comics Reporter.
  • Moshe Chaim Gress, artist and colleague, remembers Eric (from Facebook).
  • Hazon Yeshaya Humanitarian Network dedicates its hot meals nationwide to Eric’s memory (Word document).

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